The latest Boeing graphic of the work-in-progress the 787-10

After a recent flurry of stories that made the double stretch version of the Dreamliner, the 787-10 seem ready to launch the Boeing message machine has lightly touched the brake pedal and said ‘there is more work to be done.’

This could be good rather than bad news. The last thing the air transport industry needs is anything like the credibility crisis that afflicted the protracted testing and entry into service of the initial model the 787-8, which Qatar Airways says will first see commercial service in this country on the Perth-Doha route from late December.

However the more immediate focus among many airlines seems to be the larger, longer ranged and more capable version, the 787-9, for which Air New Zealand is the launch customer.

This is what the report says about the -9 in particular.

The backlog of 787 orders was currently split at about 60 percent for the 787-8 model, which can carry 210 to 250 passengers, and 40 percent for the 787-9, a slightly bigger version that is designed to seat up to 290. Boeing said final assembly of the 787-9 version would likely start in late spring or early summer next year, with first delivery seen in early 2014.

The disquiet that might be read into this is that early summer for its first flight means June or July of next year, and ‘early 2014’ for first delivery could mean up to the end of March 2014, and the time available between say the start of next July and late the next March implies a very well scripted, tightly run and problem free test and certification period.

Observers of the industry have been briefed on a number of occasions that the -9 is a significant refinement of the -8, which means notwithstanding the common certification benefits between the -8 and the -9, this will be a program where the Boeing team will age a lot faster than the airframes.

Qantas can exercise options for up to 35 of the 787-9s from 2016 if Qantas long haul has been rendered profitable. Not by 2016, but sometime it seems in 2014, when Boeing needs to get notification from Qantas of its intentions, and lots of money.

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